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Everyday Enviro with Elise - How to do disposables

Date: 18-Dec-18
Author: Elise Catterall

Avoidance is always best, but if disposables are essential, opt for biodegradable tableware such as paper-based uncoated plates and cups, or wooden or bamboo plates and cutlery. © Sustainability Victoria

Avoidance is always best, but if disposables are essential, opt for biodegradable tableware such as paper-based uncoated plates and cups, or wooden or bamboo plates and cutlery.

So, party season is here and I have to admit that it turns me into a bit of an ecogrouch – I physically tense up when I see plastic-lined bins overflowing with plastic plates, glasses and cutlery, and that kind of ruins the party atmosphere.  These items are not only single use (and for such a short duration at that) but in most cases, they are not recycled or recyclable.

There are eco-friendly alternatives though – lots of them – so I want to just look at their relative merits and see just how friendly they are.

First though, it is worth saying that avoiding any disposable items is the ideal scenario.  If you are having a do at home, you can borrow  (or rent) glasses, plates or cutlery, or you could pop to a charity shop to  buy a spare set.  It may mean more washing up, but no matter how good the disposable option you go for is, nothing is as nice as eating off real crockery.

Now, let’s look at the alternative materials to plastic for disposable party ware.

Cornstarch/Polyactic Acid (PLA), like these.

Used for cutlery, cups, lids, containers. Polylactic acid (PLA) is a plant based plastic.  These are highly heat resistant and made from renewable resources (typically between 70-100%).  They are commercially compostable.

Palm leaf (Areca leaf), like these.

Mainly used for plates and bowls, they are made from the naturally fallen outer sheath of the Areca palm tree, which are pressed and cut to shape. Chemical free, tree free and 100% biodegradable.  Can be fairtrade.

Bamboo pulp, like these

Used  mainly for plates, and good  for heavier, moist, hot or cold food.  Readily renewable and typically home compostable. These plates are bleached and low emission.

Sugarcane, like these.

Used for food containers, plates, bowls.  Made from rapidly renewable sugarcane pulp, a by product of the sugar industry.  Typically oxygen bleached, so usually chemical free. Home compostable and recyclable in kerbside recycling. Low emission. Sugarcane pulp is often mixed with bamboo pulp to make sturdier plates and containers and other items, like napkins.

Paperboard, like these.

Used for cups, food trays and containers. Made from FSC certified paper are home compostable, and recyclable in kerbside recycling.

Plant fibre, like these.

Made from reclaimed agricultural fibre. Highly heat resistant. Low emission and low chemical but only commercially compostable.

Birchwood, like these.

Used for cutlery, chopsticks, cones and boats, and made from FSC certified birchwood.  Strong, heat resistant and, best of all, home compostable.

With all these friendlier alternatives, it is hard to justify filling our bins - and our landfill - with plastic.  And while it is true that the cost of these items will be higher than their non-recyclable, non-ecofriendly alternatives, the most important thing is that they won’t cost the earth this Christmas.


See you next time! - Elise

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes. 


Elise                                             Catterall
Author: Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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